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Equipment Joystick Injury Study Underway On The East Coast


Heavy equipment manufacturer John Deere and distributor Wallace Equipment have teamed up with the University of New Brunswick to study how operating heavy equipment joystick controls relates to soft tissue upper limb and neck injuries. Forestry professor Jeremy Rickards and graduate student Michelle Oliver have been presented with a machine operator's seat and joystick controls valued at $50,000. UNB is said to have the only university lab in the world examining how the physical stresses of off-road machine operation cause repetitive strain injuries. While not all worker compensation boards in Canada currently break down injuries by type, it is clear that soft tissue injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are a leading health problem. "In an average eight hour shift, the operator of a large joystick-operated forestry machine makes 20,000 motions from the hands and wrists," Oliver explains. "That's a lot of stress ."

Michele Oliver of the University of New Brunswick with Lee MacPherson of John Deere distributor Wallace Equipment.

In the lab, fellow grad students take the role of operators. "We put little reflective balls on the operating arm, film the motions with a three (soon to be six) camera system, and analyze the results to relate the number and extent of motions, the effort exerted to start and stop, with the effect on the wrist, arm, neck soft tissue and associated nerves ." In the near future, real operators will be recruited to take part in the tests and share their personal experience. The next step will be to take the study into the field to gather data on what happens under actual working conditions.


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